Members of the community gathered last week at Kerry Wood Nature Centre to celebrate the opening of the City’s first music park – a unique, inclusive accomplishment that is accessible to all members of the community.
The Kiwanis Harmony Garden is designed to allow for inclusive play for children with mobility issues who require wheelchairs or walking aids. The space is filled with a variety of tuned and un-tuned instruments such as drums and xylophones that are integrated into a natural environment.
The Kiwanis Harmony Garden project was made possible by the Kiwanis Club of Red Deer, the Red Deer Homes Foundation and by federal monetary donations through the Enabling Accessibility Fund.
“We are very proud of this music park because it brings together all of the children of the entire community, even those with mobility issues, to come and partake in the outdoors,” said Cynthia de Boer of the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society (WEES).
“We’re so incredibly proud. There aren’t a lot of these parks in the world so we feel very fortunate to have had the Kiwanis Club come together with the Homes Foundation, WEES and other community members to make this happen. It’s a very exciting place for us.”
An official opening ceremony took place with Mayor Tara Veer, members of City council and various community members on Oct 2nd. Students from the Lindsay Thurber High School band came out to test the instruments for the public, and even a few members of the Parkland Special Education Community School tried out the grounds.
“Connecting children with special needs to the great outdoors, along with the rest of the community’s children, will create great opportunities for fresh air, education and musical fun,” de Boer said during the celebration.
”Music researchers have found correlations between music making and some of the deepest workings of the human brain. It’s a fun way to teach children, including those with special learning needs. Musical experiences can be an effective way to stimulate speech development, provide cognitive and motor development and create a meaningful environment for socialization.”
de Boer said there are few parks like this one in North America, but the existing structures have been well received by the respective communities. She said there are many benefits to having an outdoor music park because of the connections it can create between various community members.
“Music serves to bridge barriers between languages, allowing children of varying cultural backgrounds to find a common . Music is experienced by people of all cognitive and physical abilities – it has no barriers to access. Music is cross-generational and children of all ages and adults can all listen to music together,” de Boer said.
“Outside of the research that has been done on the value of music therapy and music play, we have seen parks like this get extensive use. Rotary Music Park in Moab, Utah, has an excellent example of a well-used music park.”
The Kiwanis Harmony Garden is the latest project of the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society. The Society enabled massive renovations at Fort Normandeau in the spring of last year and opened the Outdoor Imagination Grove at Kerry Wood Nature Centre last fall.